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Synopsis Phillip Naylor describes the extraordinary bilateral relationship between France and Algeria, countries which - after years of colonialism and a brutal war of independence - have attempted to fashion a new relationship based on "mutual respect".

France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Transformation

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Published by University Press of Florida These reveal themselves not in the carefully staged French propaganda that came out of the camps, a Potemkin villages record Feichtinger, , p. The fact that the Algerians interned in camps were overwhelmingly women increased their fears. The FLN-ALN recognized that sexual violence had served France as a weapon to divide Algerian society raping women compromised the family structure as it later did in other contexts Shalhoub-Kevorkian, , and they worried that the same tactic would be used in the camps These fears manifest themselves in ALN reports about girls recruited as French spies in the schools and women who had been drugged and raped by the French, forcing them into prostitution and alcoholism Such women were considered so dangerous, the documents suggest, that they were subject to execution In short, FLN-ALN documents show that they placed a priority on women as an important site for their own claims to sovereignty.

In the nineteenth century the French army conducted scorched-earth raids they called razzias, appropriating an Arabic word for raid Gallois, , p. These targeted the economy and society of rural Algeria, combining attacks on harvests, food stores, and livestock with the psychological shock or terror produced by more or less indiscriminate killing.

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Such violence was calculated to produce subsistence crises that would break an elusive enemy. This culminated in the great famine of when an estimated , Algerians succumbed to hunger and disease Kateb, , p. By the s Algerian demography began to bounce back from its steep decline, but this added its own set of pressures, as the resources available to growing Algerian families became smaller and smaller. New regimes of individual land tenure, the sequestration and fines following revolts, and, more generally, the effects of a capitalist economy resulted in the massive land transfer to Europeans and the concentration of Algerian-owned land by a few powerful families.

The cumulative effects of this crisis meant that by the average Algerian peasant family lived off less than 5 ha hectares of land, half of the amount needed for subsistence Kateb, , p. Poverty forced hundreds of thousands of people to the coastal cities, inland towns, and metropolitan France.

The Algerian population of Algerian cities over 10, inhabitants grew In Algiers, migrants first found housing in the Casbah, the old Ottoman section of the city. Although a few families had lived here continuously since , by the mid-twentieth century, the old quarter was home to about 60, new arrivals The Casbah had all of the features that define modern slums: poor access to water, no sewage or sanitary services, high rents and insecure contracts, and, of course, poverty, precarious employment, disease tuberculosis and syphilis , and high mortality It was also extremely crowded.

Algiers had been a densely populated city back in Ottoman times: when the French first arrived, the people of Algiers lived about to the hectare Berque, , p. At this time, people used every part of the Casbah as sleeping and living quarters: roofs, workshops, courtyards, stairways and halls, balconies, cellars, and the street.

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This made it one of the most densely populated slums of the twentieth century. The first modern shantytown of Algiers, Mahieddine, emerged just prior to the First World War on the slopes rising above Belcourt and Mustapha, the working-class outer districts of Algiers—near the port, warehouses, and slaughterhouse House, , p.

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Not all shantytowns were equal. Mahieddine offered good proximity to jobs and streetcars, and it became a preferred neighborhood. At the beginning of the Algerian war in , 7 people lived in Mahieddine, and six years later its population had risen to about people Photographs give the starkest expression to this, revealing houses made from all sorts of salvaged materials.


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  • "Book review: France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Trans" by Bradford Dillman.
  • They found narrow, circuitous pathways without distinguishing points of reference. Unpaved, such pathways turned into thick cold mud in the rain, and the sewers of the shantytown ran open. A new type of man is born in the bidonvilles : these neighborhoods of shacks are the crucible from which the townspeople of tomorrow will come. The European city was unable to integrate these uprooted people; [living] apart from the town that they borrow, they do not adopt its cultural values. The newcomers from the Algerian countryside have no connection with the bourgeoisie or artisans of the old cities of the Maghreb, and they have no knowledge of the sophistication of their theocratic order.

    For many then, the shantytowns represented a severe crisis, that of extreme anomie. Even as they suffered appalling material conditions, people made do in the shantytowns, and the efforts they put into to making their lives livable should not be underestimated. Indeed, while their voices fall silent in the archives, the reformers produced data about them, which when read against the grain show trends marriage patterns and household composition which strongly suggest that social and cultural norms made their way from the countryside into the shantytowns, and that they tightly structured social lives.

    If people improvised their housing from the cheapest materials, they carefully cultivated their cultural and social capital, even reinforcing social norms as a refuge against poverty Addi, , p.

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    "Book review: France and Algeria: A History of Decolonization and Trans" by Bradford Dillman

    The abandonment suffered by the shantytowns is best understood as a form of relinquishment, with the state letting them to their fate, or, rather, letting things happen that are understood to be governed by inevitable processes. It seems that no matter how hard the two peoples try to disengage or normalize their relations, they are fated to be in each other's hair. In part, their connection is practical: Algeria provides oil and gas on the one hand, workers on the other; in turn, France provides aid, a market, an employer, and other sources of support.

    But the more interesting connection, the deeper one, is that concerning identity: to an amazing extent, the French sense of self remains defined by Algeria, to the point that the "second Algerian revolution" of caused a profound crisis of self in France too. Middle East Quarterly. Is the U. Handing Northeast Syria to Turkey?